Steve Prefontaine

International Track Star - Running Legend

The Steve Prefontaine Track

Marshfield High School - Pete Susick Stadium - Coos Bay, Oregon


Coos County Track Meet

Friday, April 27, 2001

Tom Jenkins' Opening Remarks

Welcome to Pete Susick Stadium and the new Steve Prefontaine Track. I'm Tom Jenkins, Athletic Director at Marshfield High School since 1982 and boy this track has been a long time coming. And what a beautiful track-- we're very proud of it. Now I'd like to recognize those people who have helped us get it completed.

It has been a lot of hard work by a lot of people to get this great facility. One person who I'd like to thank who helped us with fund raising ideas is Wade Bell. He helped us get a grant from the Oregon Community Foundation and gave us some great fund raising ideas. Also, Bob Huggins of the Prefontaine Memorial Committee worked hard and sent out letters to more than 15,000 alumni and generated over 600 donations. We really appreciate all of their efforts.

Steve Cox was our District Engineer in charge of this project and did an outstanding job along with Bracelin-Yeager Construction-- just an outstanding job by them. Stuart Woods, for his help and contacts with Nike and also his advice on the track. We really appreciate that.

At this time, I'd like to turn this over to the Prefontaine Executive Director. He has worked long and hard-- I really appreciate all he has done-- Bob Huggins, Master of Ceremonies for tonight.

Bob Huggins' Introductory Comments

It was in 1968, Steve Prefontaine's junior year at Marshfield, when a new cinder track was completed. That surface served the school well over the years, but time had taken its toll. This beautiful new track replaces that old cinder surface that had deteriorated badly. The old base had settled and cracked, causing poor drainage. The S/W corner of the track was 2 feet higher than the NE corner, causing the short sprint and hurdle races to be run uphill. The old track had non-standard curves, which were too tight, and the lanes were only 36' wide instead of the standard 42' lanes. Isn't it ironic that the track where Pre had his first victories and set his last American record had become almost unsuitable for competition?

The School District had known for a number of years that the track needed to be replaced, but it was a matter of finding the money to complete the project. Tom Jenkins approached the Prefontaine Memorial Committee asking us to head up a fund raising effort and we accepted the challenge. The Coos Bay School Board approved the fund raising effort for a new track and pledged to match on a dollar-for-dollar basis all funds raised.

The project started out to be only for reconstructing the track at an estimated cost of $400,000. We quickly realized that we couldn't solve all of the track problems without creating serious problems with the field due to the elevation differences and common drainage. This dilemma was explained to the School Board and they made the bold decision to fund the balance of the project. So what started out as a track project costing approximately $400,000 ended up as a track and field project costing in excess of $1.3 million dollars.

What we have ended up with is a high school athletic complex second to none in the State of Oregon that will provide the youth of this community with a state of the art synthetic field and this beautiful track which we are dedicating this evening in the name of Steve Prefontaine.'''''''

There are a number of people and organizations that we would like to recognize this evening who have either been financial contributors to Marshfield Track or who have been influential in making this project come to fruition.

Our track renovation project received a tremendous shot in the arm on May 30th, 1999 when Nike co-founder and Chairman Phil Knight, with Bill Bowerman at his side, announced at the Prefontaine Classic, that Marshfield High School would be the first recipient of a $50,000 track rehabilitation grant. The grant program was established by Nike to honor Bowerman, the legendary U of O track coach and co-founder of Nike, who had recently retired from Nike's Board of Directors. Marshfield High School, and this community, are extremely grateful to Nike for their generous donation. Two Nike representatives, Geoff Hollister and Rudy Chapa, are with us this evening to make a presentation to Marshfield. In a few moments I will introduce them to you.

I would like to recognize the Coos Bay School Board for approving the project and advancing the necessary funds to complete this project. I'd like to express my appreciation to Board Chairman Donna Stolle and Board members Tom Bennett, Rob Wall, Don Blom, Wally Hazen, Sue Walberg, Caddie McKeown and Betty Golden.

I'd like to recognize the leadership of Dr. Giles Parker, Superintendent of Coos Bay Public Schools, Arnold Roblan, Principal of Marshfield High School and Tom Jenkins, Marshfield Athletic Director, for without their vision, I don't believe this project would have happened. Thanks also to Assistant Superintendent Jeremy Lyon for shepherding the project to its successful conclusion.

I'd like also to thank the City of Coos Bay for their financial contribution and in recognizing that a complex such as this will contribute to the economic development of the Bay Area. Our thanks to Mayor Joe Benetti, former Mayor Joanne Verger, City Manager Bill Grile and City Council members-- Cindi Miller, Jeff McKeown, Don Spangler, Kevin Stufflebean, Judy Weeks and Anna Marie Larson.

I'd like to recognize two former track coaches at Marshfield who had such a profound influence on Steve Prefontaine while he was a student at Marshfield. Walt McClure was the head track coach at Marshfield from 1952 to 1972 and Phil Pursian, distance and cross country coach from 1964 to 1996.

Finally, we'd like to recognize the nearly $70,000 in financial contributions from over 600 Marshfield graduates and friends of Pirate Track & Field. Without their support, this project would never have gotten off the ground. In recognition of their support, their names have been placed on a plaque, which will be permanently displayed adjacent to the track. At this time, I'd like to present this contribution board to Athletic Director Tom Jenkins.' A pretty impressive list. And by the way, the letters that were sent out to Marshfield graduates, we got letters of encouragement and money from people all over the country who graduated from Marshfield from as far back as the 1930's who wanted to contribute to this track project.

I'd like to recognize the members of the Prefontaine family who are with us this evening- Ray and Elfriede Prefontaine and Linda Prefontaine. Linda Prefontaine will speak on behalf of the family. Linda graduated from Marshfield in 1971 where she played on both the basketball and tennis teams for 4 years. She was District Champion in doubles for 3 years. She continued her tennis career at both Southwestern Oregon Community College and the University of Oregon.' After graduating from the UO with a degree in Education, she took up the game of racquetball with great success. In 1978, she won the Oregon Singles Championship and was National Singles Runner-up. She joined the Women's Professional Racquetball tour and competed for three years. When she left the tour, she was the 6th ranked player in the country. Linda resides in Eugene where she has worked in the lumber business for the past 20 years. Please help me welcome Linda Prefontaine.

Text of Linda Prefontaine's Comments

As children, Steve and I spent countless hours playing on this track--and in the old wooden grandstands.

Who would have known?

As a junior high student, Steve won a district meet in the 1320--and the seed was planted.

Who would have known?

As a Pirate and a Duck, Steve won State and National championships. As the kid from Coos Bay--he won your hearts.

Who would have known?

In early June of 1975, we paid tribute to him and memorialized his final lap on this track.

Who would have known?

And now Nike, Marshfield High School and the citizens of Coos Bay are paying tribute to Steve by naming this beautiful new track in his honor.

Who would have known?

The Prefontaine family is proud and honored, as I know Steve truly would be! Thank you!

Bob Huggins Introduces Geoff Hollister

I'd like Geoff Hollister to come to the podium at this time. Geoff was an early Nike pioneer, one of the first employees at Nike, a good friend of Pre's and of the Prefontaine family. Geoff has been instrumental to the success of our Annual Prefontaine Memorial Run, helping to procure Nike sponsorship of our race for the past 22 years. Geoff is currently Director of the Bill Bowerman Legacy at Nike. Please welcome Geoff Hollister.

Text of Geoff Hollister's Comments

I am honored to be here at Marshfield High School to speak on behalf of the two most influential people in my life--Bill Bowerman and Steve Prefontaine. And it is only fitting that their two names be united once more--this time with the dedication of this facility, named in the memory of Steve Prefontaine. Steve was blessed with the mentoring of four fine coaches. At Marshfield, Walt McClure and Phil Pursian. At the University of Oregon, Bill Bowerman and Bill Dellinger. During Bowerman's tenure at Oregon, he coached Walt McClure and Bill Dellinger.

Bowerman considered himself a teacher more than a coach--the professor of the competitive response, but none of us that preceded him got it like Steve Prefontaine. Steve became the ultimate student--he redefined the word 'competitor'. Bowerman and Prefontaine would become a collaborative effort that would turn Hayward Field into a magical place.

It is only fitting that Bill Bowerman was still alive to present the first Bowerman Track Renovation Grant, along with Nike co-founder Phil Knight, to the Marshfield Track & Field team at the 1999 Prefontaine Classic.

For the young athletes here today, who might wonder what do I possibly owe to an old man who has since passed away, I ask that you simply start by looking at your own feet. Bowerman started by elevating your heel to reduce the stress on the Achilles tendon--that's where the name running flat came from. You had a choice of a hard sole or a soft sole. Bill combined the two, giving you cushion and durability. He substituted nylon uppers for leather for comfort and weight, and then took it further by introducing mesh. And eventually, he developed his patented waffle outsole.

He gave us workout schedules with rest days to follow our hard days, so our body could recover.

In 1962, he brought jogging from New Zealand, which preceded the running boom of the 70's and the fitness boom we enjoy today.

And lastly, he changed the landscape of the sport forever with a new surface to run on. His early experiment with asphalt and ground-up truck tire rubber on sheets of plywood would progress to the first all-weather track, constructed at Pleasant Hill High School in the mid-1960's. Materials and processes have changed to where today, you have 50,000 recycled shoes to help cushion the Nike regrind installation by Atlas Tracks.

Bowerman's life was dedicated to helping all of us perform at our best on the day.

So it is my privilege to present a plaque from Nike to Marshfield High School to be place trackside that reads as follows:

The most important coach of American track never considered himself a coach, but a teacher. His was an approach of discipline and motivation, finding and nurturing the best within every person willing to commit to excellence. This track is dedicated to the man who forever changed the face of competitive running--Bill Bowerman.

Nike Plaque is Presented to Tom Jenkins, MHS Athletic Director.

Geoff Hollister Introduces Rudy Chapa

I'm going to introduce your next speaker. When it came to thinking of who would be appropriate as an athlete to dedicate the Steve Prefontaine Track, I could think of one person--Rudy Chapa-- for he is the one who lowered Pre's American record in the 3,000 meters from 7:42 to 7:37 and he did it in style at Hayward Field in front of Ray and Elfriede. After the meet was over, they met each other. Rudy still holds the American Junior Record for 10,000 meters with a time of 28:32 and Steve still holds the American Junior Record for 5,000 meters at 13:39. It is my pleasure to introduce Rudy Chapa.

Text of Rudy Chapa's Comments

Thank you. It is an honor to be here and I have a few prepared remarks. But before I kick off, I can't help to want to recognize--and especially to the high school competitors here-- this facility you have here. Having been an athlete, having been Director of Global Sports Marketing at Nike, I was lucky enough to compete at a lot of places and see a lot of wonderful stadiums at the high school and college and professional level. And I've got to tell you when I--this is the first time in Coos Bay and when I got here I wasn't sure where the track was--and I drove into the school parking lot and I walked down from up there and saw this facility. I was absolutely amazed! You are all incredibly fortunate to have a facility like this to compete on. Thank you to your leaders and to the community--it is everything a community project is supposed to be. The high school athletes who are going to get to compete here are very fortunate.

We are here today to honor Pre, what he accomplished, but more importantly, what he stood for--drive, vision, determination.
That is what really made Pre great--why his spirit still lives.
In the great Oregon track tradition,
At the heart of a great Oregon company--Nike,
In all the young athletes that will have the privilege to compete on this track.

Pre was the greatest athlete ever to come out of Coos Bay, certainly one of the greatest in Oregon history. He set 14 American records. Won 4 NCAA gold metals, was an Olympic finalist.

What made Pre special weren't his great accomplishments, but rather the values he embodied. That's what set him apart.

Pre was all about drive, determination and the constant push to exceed his own goals. Pre knew what he wanted, had absolute confidence that he could get it and he backed it all with a work ethic and intensity that is truly rare and special. Every achievement, every goal attained was a stepping stone towards a new goal, every victory was fuel for the next big drive.

It is these qualities that we honor in dedicating this track today, knowing that the Pre spirit still lives'
In the great Oregon track tradition,
At the heart of a great Oregon company,
In all the young athletes that will have the privilege to compete on this track.

Thank you.

Bob Huggins Introduces Fran Worthen

In a few moments we will dedicate this track in the name of Steve Prefontaine. Before we do, I'd like to introduce two former teammates of Steve's who will share some memories of Steve and of their own track and field careers at Marshfield.

Fran Worthen was a 1972 graduate of Marshfield and competed on one of the earliest women's teams. Fran was an early pioneer in women's track and field in this State and was a tremendous athlete. From 1969 to 1972 she earned 8 individual state titles and 2 relay titles culminating in a State Championship for the Marshfield women's team in 1972. During that time she set the National High School long jump record in both her sophomore and senior seasons. She still holds the MHS records for the 100 and 200-meter dashes and the long jump. After graduation, there were few opportunities for female athletes, so she trained under Mike Hodges at SWOCC with the men's team. This provided a springboard to many national meets. She was a finalist in the 100 and 220-yard dashes and the long jump and won the National Championship in the 220 in 1974. That same year she competed for the US in the short relay against the USSR at Duke University and the team set an American Record. Fran currently coaches jumps, sprints and relays at Marshfield, is the head coach of the Pre Track Club, a track and field club for youth, and also is a member of the Prefontaine Memorial Committee. Please welcome Fran Worthen.

Text of Fran Worthen's Comments

Steve Prefontaine was more than a champion on the track. He was a compassionate man, fearless in his outspoken approach to inequity at all levels of college and national sport. He was not a friend of the sport establishment and he often paid the price for voicing his opinion. He was a champion of athletes' rights. He was a champion for grassroots efforts to develop and mentor youth. He was a champion of women athletes like me who endured discrimination in sports programs at every level, but who pressed on for the love of the sport. Steve referred to himself on occasion as the 'champion of the underdog', and so he was. The torch was not dropped at his untimely death, but was passed on to others who drew courage and confidence from Steve's influence in their lives. We have witnessed, and our sons and daughters have benefited from the changes that have occurred in the 25 years since his death.

Steve Prefontaine loved to bask in the admiration of his fans and friends! But he never missed an opportunity to express his appreciation to those special individuals who guide the champions on their quest and stand aside when the awards are given. The coach has an incredible responsibility to the athlete. The coach/athlete relationship is one of those indescribable relationships that is impossible to completely define, but wonderful in its experience. This facility is a fabulous testimony to the support of community and corporate friends. But without the coach, there would be no one to guide the athlete in its best use. Tonight it is my privilege to salute the head coaches of Marshfield High School track who have influenced a generation.

Coaches, please stand and remain standing as I call your name. Audience, please hold your applause until I complete my remarks.

My first experience with track and field as a gangly 12 year old was in Walt McClure's summer youth program in 1967, the first year girls were allowed to participate. Thank you Walt-I knew after that first summer that track was for me.

Track and field was not a co-ed sport in those early days. Four women head coaches, not present here tonight, deserve mention. Nadine Brood, 1967-1970; Cheryl Cassidy, 1971; Kay Chambers, who led her team to a State Championship in 1972; and Mary Paczesniak from 1973-1975. The team became co-ed in 1976.

Phil Pursian, who began as an assistant to McClure in 1964, and headed up the cross country team from 1974 until retirement in 1995. Phil recruited me to fill his spot on the Prefontaine Memorial Run Committee.

Fred Girt, 1987, continues to inspire and coach athletes at the middle school level.

Craig Osterson, 1997-2000, was the head coach who hired me as an assistant and provided training and encouragement all along the way.

Steve Pennington, 2001, who was a longtime football coach and track assistant, came out of retirement to coach the team this year.

For me personally, one man stands out from the rest. He was an assistant to Walt McClure back in 1967. I can remember Mr. Solomon demonstrating the drills and encouraging me to imitate his movements. I couldn't understand his thick Hawaiian accent most of the time, but he showed me what he expected. Man, could he fly over hurdles and western roll over the high jump bar! Stan has coached at MHS in many capacities for 39 years--24 years as head track coach. He has been an outstanding mentor and friend. Thank you, Stan Solomon.

I know there are many athletes and MHS alumni with us here tonight. If your life has been touched by one of these coaches, would you please stand and salute them with me.

Bob Huggins Introduces Jay Farr

Jay Farr was a 1969 graduate of Marshfield and was a classmate of Steve Prefontaine's for 13 years. Jay was a quarter and half-miler in high school and was a member of the 1969-mile relay team that still holds the MHS record. Jay competed for 2 years at Yale University under coach Robert Giegengack. After graduating from Yale, Jay attended Stanford University Business School where he received his Masters degree. He then joined the family business where he is now President of Farr's True Value Hardware.' Jay has been the Head Cross Country Coach at Marshfield for the past 6 years and is also a founding member of the Prefontaine Memorial Committee. Please welcome Jay Farr.

Text of Jay Farr's Comments

It has been 32 years since Pre attempted to break 4:00 minutes in the Coos County mile. He was always challenging himself with tough goals. Although he didn't meet that goal that night, he went on to break 4:00 minutes many times. The fact that he didn't make his goal did not discourage him from setting ever-greater goals as his career continued. He wasn't blessed with blazing speed. He didn't start out as a star. Through hard work, perseverance, and the self-confidence that can only be earned, Steve made himself the most charismatic and successful runner of his time, and perhaps of all time.

To all the students here tonight-- you are the future scientists, writers, athletes, politicians, teachers, business people, doctors, lawyers, service providers, and occupations that we have not yet invented.

Steve's legacy to you is simply this'whatever you do, you can be the best. You can challenge the field of your choice and win. You can be someone from Southwestern Oregon who dares to be the best in the world, and then goes out and becomes the best.

Take stock of your talents and your opportunities, and then do it better than anyone else ever has or ever will.


Bob Huggins' Closing Comments

It is now time to dedicate our new track to the memory of Steve Prefontaine. Steve was an inspiration to both runners and track and field fans around the world and continues to inspire runners--young and old--to this day. Steve held every American distance record from 2,000 meters to 10,000 meters at the time of his passing on May 30th, 1975. His last American record was set on this track on May 9th, 1975. It is most appropriate that we dedicate this track in his name--The Steve Prefontaine Track.

At this time, we will have a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony. With the assistance of several members of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors, a ribbon will be stretched out across the track. We'd like Ray, Elfriede, and Linda Prefontaine to cut the ribbon.

Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

Thanks to everyone for being here this evening for the Coos County Track Meet. Enjoy the rest of the competition.

Before we re-start the track meet, we'd like you to please rise for the playing of the National Anthem by the Marshfield High School Marching Band followed by the Pirate Fight Song.